Get to the point

The drawn-out email. The flowery, keyword-dense blog intro with no substance. The rambling, 550-page novel that lacks continuity. The podcast with 20 minutes of information crammed into 45 minutes. The 120-slide business pitch.

These things suck.

I’ll soon revisit this topic and give out some practical advice on concise writing, but for now I thought I’d prime the pump by quoting some really famous people. (I like to do that, being famous and all.)

People far smarter than me have been saying it for generations: Get to the point. Don’t use two words where one will do.

Richard Branson on pitching ideas:

Steve Jobs, who gave what are considered some of the best business presentations of all time, waxing on brevity and clarity:

Truman Capote, two time Edgar Award recipient and mega-bestselling author of In Cold Blood, on editing:

Finally, a passage from The Elements of Style, which for most serious writers is almost literally the equivalent of the New Testament:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

If you don’t care about wasting people’s time, you should care about being ignored. You don’t have to write short form; you just have to get to the point and stick with it. Elegant, simple language doesn’t imply dumbed-down writing. It’s about staying on point and respecting other people’s time.

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Posted on: May 23, 2018